Monday, March 17, 2008

Living Green in G'town

From today's Commercial Appeal. MLGW will be participating in Germantown's "Living Green in G'town Outdoor Expo" on March 29th. Details at bottom...

Germantown going green for long haul
Mayor wants city to be environmentally sustainable

By Lela Garlington

Monday, March 17, 2008

When patrolling Germantown's parks and recreational area in a Ford Escape Hybrid sports utility vehicle, park ranger David Halpern feels like he's riding in a golf cart.

"In the beginning it is a weird sensation because it is so quiet. It doesn't shift gears either."

As long as he drives under 30 miles per hour, Halpern said, "I'm not using any gas. "

At slower speeds, the hybrid runs on electricity from a computer-operated battery installed underneath the SUV's trunk.

Going green for Germantown is more than celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Like a number of cities and counties, it means seeing how the city can save energy, reduce costs and be less dependent on foreign oil.

For the past several years, the city has experimented on several energy-saving measures from using hybrid and biofuel vehicles to changing ball field and holiday lighting to ones using less energy.

Park gates are operated by solar panels.

With the recent purchase of compressed-air foam, the fire department is expecting to use considerably less water and cause less water damage to buildings and vehicles.

Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy wants her city to take the lead in becoming more environmentally sustainable and doing the right thing. "It is hard for us to preach a practice if we are not doing the practice ourselves," she said.

For another example, the renovation of the Public Services building includes the installation of motion sensor lighting in each room.

"When there's no motion in a room after five minutes, the lights automatically turn off," Goldsworthy said.

The city's hybrid SUV cost about $5,000 more than a gas-powered SUV. But city officials said the hybrid is getting 65 percent better gas mileage. It averages about 33 miles to the gallon compared to about 20 mpg on the non-hybrid.

Cities and counties are going green across the country. A recent County News article from the National Association of Counties gave these examples:

Cobb County, Ga., is replacing all public toilets with waterless ones.

Miami-Dade County, Fla., is offering residents a showerhead swap program in which older units are exchanged for new, high-efficiency ones.

San Bernardino County, Calif., waives building permit fees when solar panels, wind turbines or tankless water heaters are installed.

Maricopa County, Ariz., is replacing its county fleet of 2,000 vehicles with hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles.

Locally, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton is creating a Sustainable Shelby office for strategic planning for sustainable development.

Andrew Couch with the West Tennessee Clean Cities Coalition said a number of agencies such as Memphis Area Transit Authority, Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division and the Health Department are using both hybrids and biofuels. As director of West Tennessee Clean Cities office in Memphis, Couch helps local businesses, residents and governments become more environmentally friendly consumers and recyclers.

Goldsworthy said Germantown is considering other energy saving changes.

"We are looking at drip irrigation and refocusing on plants in the medians that don't require as much water."

Sometimes the up-front costs may be more, but the city saves money in the long run.

"Not only are we trying to do the right thing," she said, "But for the most part it is cost effective."

-- Contact Lela Garlington at 529-2349.

Living Green in G'town Outdoor Expo

When: March 29 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Where: Germantown Civic Club Complex at 7725 Poplar Pike near the Pickering Center

What: More than a dozen vendors will talk about and display drought tolerant landscaping, drip irrigation systems, hybrid vehicles and environmentally friendly products, Demonstrators will show creative ways to preserve food, use leftoverd and eat healthier. Architects will make suggestions on "going green" home improvements.

Costs: Free

Questions: Call 757-7376.

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